The American Cancer Society (ACS) is one of the most widely known organizations that is also considered a nationwide community-based voluntary health organization (Zoller, 1991). The ACS was founded in 1913 as the American Society for the Control of Cancer (ASCC) by 15 prominent physicians and business leaders in New York City (American Cancer Society. (2010). . At that time, a cancer diagnosis amounted to near certain death, rarely mentioned in public and was kept hidden from families and society in general. Doctors rarely told their patients that they had cancer for fear that malpractice would soon follow. Education was the key and the number of doctors, nurses, patients, and family members to be reached was overwhelming. The Societys founders found that if they could educate the public through journal writings and publications, then the overall taboo of cancer would be lessened, accepted more (American Cancer Society. (2010).. Their dedication and goal was to eliminate cancer as a major health problem through techniques such as ongoing research, education, advocacy and service that prevent the illness, save lives, and reduce an individuals suffering. This was just the start of
doctors interacting with the education, and prevention of cancer.
In the 1960s and 70s, the American Cancer Society began to expand its reach as an organization, working even more than in the past to involve all sectors in its efforts to fight back against the disease. Involve and educate more health care professionals about the various forms and treatments of cancer(Breen, 2001). In the 60s, the Society was instrumental in the development of the Surgeon General??™s report on the link between smoking and cancer when early Society-sponsored studies confirmed the connection (American Cancer Society. (2010). This upheaval in the perception of smoking laid the groundwork for tobacco control progress, and for the corresponding lives saved, that continues today(Zoller, 1991).
Society-funded researchers have contributed to nearly every major cancer research breakthrough we??™ve seen in the more than 60 years since the Society??™s research program began (Parish, n.d). They??™ve helped establish the link between cancer and smoking; demonstrated the effectiveness of the Pap test; developed cancer-fighting drugs and biological response modifiers such as interferon; dramatically increased the cure rate for childhood leukemia; proven the safety and effectiveness of mammography. To date, the American Cancer Society has invested approximately $3.3 billion in research, including giving 44 future Nobel Prize winners the recognition and funding they needed to get started (American Cancer Society. (n.d).
With the ongoing fight to educate, the advocacy of the ACS has contributed to the passage of the National Cancer Act in 1971 (American Cancer Society. (n.d), which granted special funds and
authority to expand the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and revolutionized the war on cancer. With the development of the NCI, the American Cancer Society also had to adapt to a new role ??“ that of filling in the gaps of the federal government??™s focus in areas such as cancer prevention and education (American Cancer Society. (2010). Since then and throughout the years to come, education and prevention have been the number one focus of the ACS, and the one constant strength that remained within the organization was the support and drive of the more than three million dedicated volunteers. From the boards of directors who set strategy and policy to members of the community who organize special events and education programs, Society volunteers, supported by professional staff, drive every part of our mission (Parish, n.d). Volunteers have been key in the introduction or passage of measures providing money for states to set up breast and cervical cancer screening and referral programs for low-income women, guaranteeing Medicare coverage for screening mammography, increasing the cigarette excise tax, requiring nutrition labels on food products, protecting cancer survivors from employment discrimination, mandating quality assurance for mammography facilities, and funding increases for biomedical research (Parish, n.d). The volunteers are the key to the American Cancer Societies success.
Today, the American Cancer Society is a global leader in the fight against cancer, with $1 billion in resources annually to save lives by helping people stay well and get well, by finding cures, and by fighting back against the disease (Zoller, 1991). The ACS is organized into thirteen geographical divisions of both medical and lay volunteers operating in more than 3,400 offices throughout the United States and Puerto Rico (Breen, 2001). The home office is located in the American Cancer Society Center in Atlanta Georgia. Local offices are organized to deliver lifesaving programs and services at
the community level. Offices are strategically placed around the country in an effort to maximize the impact of our efforts, and be as efficient as possible with the money donated to the Society to fight cancer and save lives (Zoller, 1991). While the American Cancer Society does not have a physical office in every community, its staff and volunteers are available in every community and are ready to help people with cancer and their families and get them the resources they need. Thanks in part to the Society??™s work, there are 11 million people alive in the United States alone who have survived cancer.
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Breen, B. (2001). The American Cancer Societys Next Crusade. Fast Company, (51), 58. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database.
Parish;, C. (n.d). AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY VOLUNTEERS ADDRESS STATEWIDE HEALTH ISSUES WITH LAWMAKERS. Take Pride! Community Magazine, 13(22), 5. Retrieved from ProQuest: Ethnic Newswatch database
Zoller, H. (1991). Society advocacy: One voice, many faces. Cancer News, 45(3), 4. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database.